Monday, April 22, 2013

Music Therapy Part One - Recovering Memory and Speech of Stroke Survivors

by Chuck Jones

 As you will see, this article has many interesting points and touches on results that we have actually seen, first hand, with our stroke survivor campers. I need to point out, though, that in order to get the results described in this research article, a board-certified music therapist needs to be involved. We have board certified music therapists who work with us at our camps. They are producing these very results with stroke survivors. 

For a music experience to be called music therapy, it has to include a board certified music therapist, a client, and music experienced within a therapeutic relationship. Music is used by other types of therapists, but they don't call it music therapy. Music can also be used by caregivers in many ways to help stimulate the healing of the brain, and the best results would be achieved by working with a board certified music therapist who can prescribe music for a therapeutic outcome. 

You can contact the American Music Therapy Association to find a music therapist near you or go to their website at:

Here is the American Music Therapy Association's definition of Music Therapy: "Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program." 
The following article originated on a blog hosted by an online site called X8-Drums ( and posted by their blog moderator Kristen.
Music therapy is used widely for rehabilitation of patients that have had a severe stroke. A study out of Finland reported that incorporating music into standard stroke rehabilitation treatments helps improve recovery of speech and memory. The music had a more significant impact on recovery than the use of audio books or no additional stimuli at all. The study also showed that the music lightened the spirits of patients as well.

After six months of therapy, the music listeners' verbal memory improved by 60% and focused attention improved by 17%, much higher than the results noted in audio book listeners or patients with nothing. Furthermore, the music listeners were happier and less confused than members of the other groups. The research was carried out on adults who had suffered an ischaemic middle cerebral artery stroke with no prior history of neurological disorder.

Strokes occur when blood is unable to reach the brain, killing brain tissues.

This can cause disability in movement and cognition, as well as death.

Medical treatment includes medication to thin the blood that will prevent further clotting, and restrictions on the patient's diet will help to improve cholesterol levels. The stroke even causes weakness, loss of coordination, and pain. The aftermath of the event includes memory loss, confusion, depression, difficulty speaking, paralysis, and sensory loss.

While listening to music, the brain boosts alertness, mood and attention due to stimulation of the dopaminergic mesocorticolimbic system, which moderates feelings of pleasure and memory, among other emotions.

By stimulating this system, you trigger the wires for other parts of the brain through a neurological crossing effect. Doctors believe that the combination of music and lyrics leads to this cross over effect, which helps to recover losses in other parts of the brain.

Many therapists already use music as a tool. Singing songs can boost speech recovery in stroke patients. By putting words to a familiar song melody, the patient has an easier time of forming words and phrases. Rhythm and clapping, also used by therapists, aid in the recovery of movement and muscle control.

After a stroke, it's important to begin music therapy early, during the acute post-stroke stage. During this period, the brain undergoes many changes that relate to movement, memory and speech that can be augmented by stimulation. The largest benefit of musical therapy is that it fits in well with every day life. Music is everywhere, so with proper guidance you can treat yourself or your loved ones outside of the hospital, maintaining ongoing recovery and a routine of incorporating healthy brain stimulation.

Music can be a worthwhile therapeutic addition to a stroke patient's care, and is cheap and easy to provide. Patients may also respond to live performance music or by playing on simple instruments themselves. Experiment with recorded music, live music and present the patient with an instrument like a small djembe or shaker.

When selecting the type of music, choose something that is familiar to the patient. Playing something that they recognize will improve results of the therapy and improve memory development. Interesting enough, this study of music therapy on stroke patients showed that songs by Kenny Rogers delivered the most significant response from the patients. However, you should allow the patient to choose the music him or herself, or use music that you know the patient likes, as the familiarity of the music is frequently the key to memory retention. Selecting the type of music that stimulates the brain to craft thoughts is the technique used in music therapy to recover speech and recollection.
To view the original X8-Drum article go to:



  1. The statistics regarding the efficacy of live music in stroke patients recovery is not only encouraging, but sobering. I imagine similar statistics can be found in delivering competent music (and if I might be so bold -- theatre) as integral subjects in our public schools. As much as I've enjoyed and continue to enjoy arts education, it never occurred to me to run stats on its healing and health benefits. 60% improvement as shown in this study is nothing short of a miracle. Miigwech for posting Charlie!

  2. Music Therapy,
    Thanks for the nice comment. The blog gets updated every week with a new article on different subjects. Music therapy is one of the things we found at our camps that helps stroke survivors.

  3. Great article ...Thanks for your lovely post, the contents are quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.


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